Luy's list ‘vague at best’-A A +A
Wednesday, May 21, 2014
CEBU CITY - Two more Cebuano congressmen have denied any connection to Janet Lim-Napoles or her non-government organizations (NGOs) that allegedly received billions in congressional funds.
As this developed, Cebu Archbishop Jose Palma asked government agencies investigating the alleged misuse of the Priority Development Assistance Funds (PDAF) to reveal the truth behind the various lists that are circulating.
“Sometimes we begin to doubt how much of this are machinations of those who want others to be convicted or not. Our point is that, as we usually say, the truth will set us free,” Palma told reporters.
The Senate and the Department of Justice are both investigating allegations that billions from the PDAF went to bogus NGOs, several of them organized by Janet Lim-Napoles, who then shared the proceeds with some lawmakers.
The Philippine Daily Inquirer is running a series of stories based on files allegedly kept by a former employee of Napoles, Benhur Luy.
In its report yesterday, the broadsheet listed three more Cebuanos, in addition to the five it previously named as having been included in Luy’s files. The three named yesterday were Rep. Gabriel Quisumbing (Cebu Province, Sixth District), Rep. Benhur Salimbangon (Cebu Province, Fourth District) and former sixth district congresswoman Nerissa Soon-Ruiz.
The report said that the names of all three appeared in the records, but that there was no Special Allotment Release Order (SARO). It is the latter document that authorizes the release of funds to government agencies tasked with implementing projects, including those identified by lawmakers.
“Neither I or any member of my staff have ever dealt with any Napoles NGOs as records will show,” Quisumbing, who described the report based on Luy’s information as “bordering on ridiculous”.
He said the list was “vague at best” and riddled with so many errors that “any reasonable person” should see “the haphazard nature of the list and even question its motivation”.
“Even Atty. (Levito) Baligod has said that the list is not entirely accurate and that powerful personalities are orchestrating this smear campaign,” said Quisumbing.
Baligod, according to the Inquirer report, had accompanied Luy’s parents in April 2013 to the newspaper’s offices to ask for help in exposing Napoles’s activities.
In a separate interview, Salimbangon described the report based on Luy’s files as “stupidity in the highest order.”
He told Sun.Star Cebu in a phone interview that the publication of the list, which is unverified, is most unfair because it has unnecessarily dragged innocent people into the mess.
The Department of Budget and Management (DBM) would not allow any member of Congress to implement a project that is not within his or her district.
According to the report, Luy’s files listed a road project in Consolacion town allegedly identified by Salimbangon. Consolacion isn’t part of his district, however.
‘Let it be seen’
Salimbangon said all his PDAF releases were scrutinized by the Commission on Audit, and not a single centavo went to Napoles.
Dr. Soon-Ruiz, former congresswoman of the sixth district, could not be reached for comment.
In its report last Monday, the Inquirer said that five Cebuanos in the House of Representatives were also listed in Luy’s files, although there was no record of any SARO being issued.
The five were Rep. Raul del Mar and former congressman Antonio Cuenco of Cebu City; and former congressmen Ramon Durano VI, Pablo John Garcia and Eduardo Gullas of the fifth, third and first congressional districts in the province, respectively.
The congressmen also disputed the report based on Luy’s files and pointed out that the lack of a SARO showed that no funds from their PDAF went through Napoles or her NGOs.
Archbishop Palma said if there is indeed truth in the participation of senators and congressmen in the controversy, he hopes the details would be revealed.
“If many are involved, then let it be seen. Let those responsible accept the penalty and judgment,” he added.
Published in the Sun.Star Cebu newspaper on May 22, 2014.